Shin and Ariel backed away slowly from the overly excited man while cautiously eyeing everyone who surrounded them. Due to Escred’s elation, every single soldier, nurse and healer in the sick bay were all gaping in awe while staring at the black-haired youth that they had underestimated. Nurse Hannah, the woman who chased Shin out of the medical tent after thinking that he was a phoney, began to shiver in trepidation. There was no soul in the medical field that had not heard of the illustrious Lady Seph. Thinking that she had just denied entry to the disciple of such an esteemed figure made her legs wobble and her head spin.
“Hahaha, my apologies, Healer Shin! I lost myself there a bit… Judging from your appearance, you must be drained of mana right now! Here, take this replenishment pill! It will help you recover spiritual energy much faster!”
Composing himself, Escred took out a small white pill from a cotton pouch in his pocket. As healers, there were many times where they would run out of mana due to the excessive use of their spiritual abilities. Thus, every single healer would carry some mana replenishment pills that were concocted by an apothecary to help keep them going.
Taking the pill off Escred’s hands, Shin popped it into his mouth and swallowed it in one gulp.
“Alright! Return back to your posts! There’s nothing to see here!”
Ecstatic that Shin accepted his goodwill, Escred dispersed the crowd to allow the youth to rest. Naturally, he remained on-site so that he could observe how the young healer operated. Shin, unaware that he had become an experimental subject of the hazel-coloured haired man, closed his eyes and mentally recited the Celestial Water Mantra. With Ariel and Bingbing firmly fixed at his side, no random onlooker dared to disturb his meditation.
‘I must report this back to the association. That Lady Seph is present in Aldrich’s Keep, and she had accepted such a talented disciple…’
Escred wore a cordial smile on the outside but mentally, he was planning to claim some credit on reporting the esteemed healer’s arrival. After Lady Seph went into hiding many years ago, all news about her had been hidden from the public’s eye, and no one could track her location. If he reported back to the Healer’s Association, Escred might be rewarded accordingly.
While Escred was fantasising about his rewards, a cerulean light started being emitted out of Shin’s body. Blue particles of light congregated around the black-haired youth as a small silhouette appeared on his outreached hands. The Sovereign Koi, which had been resting happily in the depths of Shin’s spiritual body, finally made its appearance after a long time. Behaving like an inebriated drunkard, it used its adorable little fins to rub its large eyes and shook violently like in a fit.
‘The Sovereign Koi?! The Awter Clan’s legacy?!’
Escred felt his blood run cold as beads of perspiration dripped down his forehead. His fingers quivered in shock, and his eyes nearly bulged out of its sockets. Evidently, the knowledgeable healer knew what Shin’s Spirit was with just one glance.
‘To think that some of the children survived the massacre!’
The tale of the Awter Clan was a tragic one. Once one of the top clans in the Himmel Empire, it was reduced to dust after an extended war with a neighbouring clan over disputes undisclosed to the public’s eye. After the Awter Clan’s demise, it was reported that no living soul, young or old, survived the endless onslaught that their enemies brought forth. Possibly due to the clan’s ties with the Lantis Republic, the Himmel Empire wished to avoid a conflict with one corner of the three great powers, thus covering up the fact that there were survivors.
Escred wasn’t the only one stunned though. Many soldiers recognised the legendary Spirit. Being one of the Eight Scions of Water, there was no way that they couldn’t identify it. Oblivious to the stares, The Sovereign Koi remained nonchalant as it swam around in the palms of Shin’s hands. Ariel, on the other hand, did not understand why the gazes of the onlookers had suddenly changed. Earlier on, they were looking at Shin with awe and admiration. However, right now, their eyes contained a tinge of fear and agitation.
At that moment, Shin’s eyelids quivered slightly, indicating that he was awakening from his meditation. Gingerly opening his eyes, he too was overwhelmed by the stares from the surroundings, and he couldn’t be blamed. When he was at Chilyoja Waypoint, other than the Mushinkei and Yakkyoku Clinic, the young boy never summoned out The Sovereign Koi in a public setting. Otherwise, he might have gotten the same stares much earlier.
Shin asked Escred.
“Y-you… What clan are you from?”
The only two entities that possessed one of the Eight Scions of Water, The Sovereign Koi, was the Awter Clan and one of the ancestor clans in the Lantis Republic. Unsure that Shin was indeed from the fallen clan, Escred cautiously enquired on his roots.
“Hmph! Let me tell you! He is from my Frie Clan! That means Shin is under our protection! Don’t try to mess with him!”
However, instead of getting a reply from the boy himself, Ariel took the chance to push the Frie Clan’s name so that Shin gained an extra layer of protection. After all, the Frie name was quite substantial around these areas.
“THE FRIE CLAN?!”
Escred screamed out. He had expected to either hear the Awter Clan or the ancestor clan of the Lantis Republic, never did he anticipate that…
“That’s right! So don’t mess with him. Otherwise, the Frie Clan won’t let you off!”
Thinking that her scare tactic worked, Ariel beamed in pride, showing the whites of her teeth. When the onlookers heard that Shin was part of the Frie Clan, they all gaped in horror. Their minds went into overload and eventually, many of them connected the dots.
“I see, I see… So Healer Shin is part of the Frie Clan…”
Escred rubbed the temples of his forehead as he felt a throbbing migraine forming.
“Ermmm, Healer Escred. If I may, my Master instructed me to assist in the treatment of the patients to the best of my ability. Since you have validated my identity, could I continue treating others?”
Unaware of the conundrum that he had put the hazel-haired man through, Shin asked Escred if he could continue on healing. Lady Seph had ordered Shin to treat as many patients as he could, and it meant that if he were to return without completely draining his mana, he would get a taste of her ‘holy light’.
“Of course, of course! We are currently short-handed, so any help that we can get is more than welcomed!”
Patting Shin on the back, Escred chucked the ludicrous information that he had just received to one corner of his mind while directing the boy inside the medical tent.
‘Arghhh! What a mess! I must report this to headquarters as soon as possible…’
In a distant corner of the Himmel Empire, secluded and obscure from all roads and towns, there lay an enormous forest that remained moist even under the blistering hot summer sun. Bordered by soaring verdant hills, the pristine forest seemed untouched by the destructive hands of man as an abundance of wildlife roamed the area. Monastery quiet, the only sounds that graced the natural habitat were the croaks of frogs and the rustling of leaves given out by wildlife prowling the bushes and monkeys swinging from the flourishing woods.
The pungent smells of rain dew and dampen earth filled the lungs of any who hoped to cross the shrubbery and currently, there was one such individual. As he continued his journey, the crackling of twigs and dried leaves echoed through the peaceful forest causing animals to steer clear from the teenager.
His straight viridian hair and sharp nose highlighted the charming dimples that appeared whenever he smiled, and his high cheekbones made him look like a model for a sculpture. Dressed in hiking gear, the tall teen used his thick brown boots to help him navigate through the labyrinth that this place was.
“Where is it?”
Junius thought out loud. Unfortunately, there was no one nearby that could help him with his woes. After Shin left for Aldrich’s Keep, Junius spent some time bonding with his lover and fellow orphans before they were tragically separated once more by the First Elder. Now that he was seventeen and had matured significantly, the First Elder and Instructor placed less attention upon the boy and allowed him to do whatever he wanted. Everything except returning to the mountain.
Currently, the relations between the First and Second Elder were at its worst since Shin left three years ago. The two divisions had been fighting to move more neutral high-level individuals into their camp much to the Clan Master’s displeasure. Many Frie Clan members had mixed feelings when it came to the orphans especially those who had a neutral stance. On one side, they wished to honour the previous Clan Master’s wishes, and on the other, they did not want to taint the blood of the Frie Clan with outsiders.
Thus, albeit unwillingly, the First Elder had kept Junius and Shin out of the mountain, to prevent pushing any neutral members from pledging allegiance to the Second Elder. Additionally, since Junius and Shin were central to the incident that nearly triggered a war between the two factions, the First Elder wished to keep the two of them safe from any other assassination attempts.
Knowing that fact, Junius treasured his time together with his lover and the ones he claimed to be his family. However, all good times come to an end, and the orphans had to return eventually.
Taking advantage of the fact that no one was going to monitor him anymore, Junius registered for an extended leave of absence at both the Mushinkei and Constable Headquarters. Under the guise that he was going on a training expedition to temper himself, the seventeen-year-old attempted to visit the one place that had been bugging him for all these years. The place where all his investigations lay.
Holding on to a detailed papyrus map, Junius continued to trek through the forest hoping to find the place that he was looking for. He had ridden on horseback for three days straight in hopes of finding this elusive place, and he was not going to give up now. Wielding his machete, Junius cut through any obstacles that lay in his path. Until eventually, a glistening light blinded his eyes that were used to the dim forest.
“Did I find it?!”
With great fervour, the young teen gathered his mana on his legs and propelled himself forward. Junius’ ears were deafened by the roaring sounds of the wind as he sliced through the air as his hair became askew, but he cared nought. He had found his target.
As he left the final tree behind him, what greeted Junius was a vast lake that spread out for kilometres at each end. The heavenly light that shone from the skies made the colossal water body seem divine. Waves upon waves gently crashed into the shores of the forest filling the air with the scented nectar of the sublime lake, greatly dazzling the unprepared youth. For some reason, Junius felt a strange connection to this natural body of water, but he couldn’t put it into words. Taking a deep breath in, the young teen marvelled at the grandeur of the lake.
“So this is Awter Lake…”